Memorize More Scripture!

In our home we are resurrecting our memorizing muscles! They have atrophied with disuse lately, I am ashamed to say. Life goes that way. Important things get squeezed into the background by other duties that scream louder for our attention.

But, quietly, the Holy Spirit keeps whispering, “You need to hide God’s word in your heart. You need to teach your children to do this too.” And, I am determined to listen and work little by little on fortifying the fortresses of our minds with Bible verses.

Why bother, in this age of instant apps, smartphones that hold the entire Bible in our pockets, and every imaginable tool to study the Bible? The only answer is BY FAITH. We are so lazy. We would rather click our phones than unzip our Bible cover and find a page. We’d rather search any app than search for a topic in the Word. And, our minds are shrinking with all this instant access to everything. I think that it makes us lazy spiritually. We just shrink from any hard work. But, by faith we have to override all of this ease, and remember that one day we are quite likely to have our Bibles taken away from us. What about when we lose power permanently for standing strong for God’s law? If we have only made the habit of clicking on the EGW app or the Bible app and not downloaded them into our permanent memory banks, we will be empty in many ways. We need the Bible to help us fight against temptation, so that we can meet Satan with “It is written,” and not just our own strength.

So, we must make the habit of memorizing the Bible. One verse at a time. We are told that our minds will strengthen as we put forth our efforts.

In light of all of this, I thought I would share a few resources that have been helpful to our family as we have worked on Scripture memorization. Currently, we are working together on Matthew 4:1-11, or how Jesus met temptation. I chose this one because we want to know how we can follow His example and succeed in our areas of weakness.

Listen to this talk first! 

The talk above is by Chad Kruezer, and it has been a real inspiration to me. I’d also recommend reading the chapter in Great Controversy about the Waldenses if you want to get inspired. Check out how many chapters Fanny Crosby had memorized — five chapters per WEEK!! She could recite the entire Pentateuch, all four Gospels, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many Psalms chapter and verse. All this being blind! Makes me wonder what’s wrong with my memory! Disuse is the only excuse.

Another resource we have found inspiring is the book, Ten Peas in a Pod, by Arnold Pent. It tells the amazing story of a family who homeschooled before it was called that, and who made Bible reading and memorization such a part of their everyday life that several of the children memorized many whole chapters and books of the Bible. It is a great read-aloud for your family and it will entertain as well as inspire!

If you need another inspiring account of a family who got their children into memorizing, here is one. The author/mom shows how she helped her children to successfully memorize the book of James.

This is a good book about scripture memorization that will give you tips, reasons, and stories to inspire you. The book is on sale for only $3. I paid more several years ago, but I think they just want to get them out to people!

If you have a Kindle, or any device where you can install the Kindle app, then there is a book that we have found to be quite helpful. You can find it in the Kindle Store. The reason this particular book is helpful is because it contains the entire Bible, divided by book, which is not so rare; many online Bibles offer this, I know. But, this book has the advantage for memorizes of offering an option where, once you have your verses on the screen, you can may either read the typed out verses, or click on the number of the verse to change the text into first letter only (see the photo below). This way you can jog your memory of the verse or passage without seeing the whole words, which gives your mind a chance to remember what’s coming next.

Here is the option of first letter only verses.

It works similarly to the way I memorize without the book. I write my verses on one side of an index card, and on the other side I just write the first letters. Then when I review them, I have cues, but not answers.

Scripturetyper.com This app is such a wonderful resource!  You can use the website online or download the app. You can add verses/chapters and join groups if you want. It saves your verses and gives you a reminder to review them at intervals. This is good for everyone! Our boys like to practice their verses often when we get into memorizing! You have several options for how to memorize and review your verses. You can just type the whole verse out, you can type using just the first letters, or you can have certain words blanked out on your screen so that you have to remember those words, while the words typed in will help you as you go along. It remembers your speed, and you can challenge yourself to keep improving your speed and accuracy. PSST…don’t tell your kids, but this also sneaks in a little typing along with the Bible memorization! We have the Scripture Typer Pro, which allows us to install it on five devices, so we can all be using it at the same time, wherever we are! It is well worth the price.

Thy Word Creations produces nice books that help you to memorize whole portions of scripture or whole chapters. They have well-known chapters set to music with a CD. These have been invaluable in our home. Every song that we have learned in this way we still have memorized years later! I am including the product webpage, and an amazon.com link, since it looks like many are not in stock on the webpage.

Thy Word Creations website—children’s projects

Teen and adult products

Amazon link

The following website offers a phone number to obtain Bible memory verse songs that go along with the My Bible First Kindergarten and Primary lessons.

My Bible First

This link is a resource for memorizing the entire chapter of Psalm 119. I do not have it yet, but have listened to the samples and they are very nice! This is my next project! Our son started memorizing Psalm 119 and almost had it down, with no ”help” like this CD, until he got sick. With a little brushing up, I know he will have it mastered. You can download the album or purchase the audio CD. I am always amazed at the talent that some people have to be able to set these passages to nice music.

There is an app that last I knew was free, and used to be available for both iOS and Android. Now I am not seeing it updated on the App Store, which makes me sad. I am including it here, on the chance that they will decide to update it, since it is a wonderful app. This app is put out by Fountainview Academy, and has hundreds of songs from the KVJ Bible put to music. Lovely music. The app is Scripture Singer. I really enjoy it and still have it downloaded onto my old phone.

There are probably hundreds of resources and tips for memorizing the Bible. I have just listed ones we have used with success from time to time. One of the best ways to have success is to join with friends who also want to memorize, because then you have accountability. Our best times memorizing have been when we had a little group who met weekly and memorized together. So much easier than when you feel like no one will know whether you succeed or not!

Feel free to share any ideas you have as well, because we are all here to help each other!

Finding God in Hardest Times? (Part One)

There is a moment.

That moment when the world feels like it is crashing down on your shoulders.

That moment when you are sure you are alone, no matter how many people are around you right then.

That moment when God feels so far away but you have nowhere to turn, nowhere else to go.

So you pray. But, deep in your heart are the doubts that this prayer (or any, really) is reaching God. That He even cares. The lies Satan is whispering have taken root and are spreading.

And, we hurt. Because that moment is pain. It is deep, unrelenting, excruciating pain. When all we can scream is WHY?! Why me? Why now?

This story is indirectly related to why we later homeschooled the boys, but that is not why I am starting here. Somewhere out there somebody needs to hear that God is there, even when we can’t feel Him. That our prayers are not going into thin air. That we can trust Him, even when His answer isn’t to turn back time and somehow make the bad news, in this case the diagnosis, go away.

The date was April 1, 1997. My husband was 27, I was 24. We only had two kids at the time: a 26-month-old easy-going, talkative son (Alex), and our 10.5-month-old daughter (Angela). Because Angela was our second child, her doctor,  Tim, and I noticed some red flags in her development. For example, she only weighed 14 lbs 9 oz, and was about 20 inches long (a nine-pound weight gain and only about two inches in length in 10 months). She was tiny and not growing well. She also couldn’t sit up, roll over, hold her head up, or interact with us; she choked on all solids, and she didn’t really play with toys. And, as a mom I knew, absolutely knew, there was something wrong. (Of course there were other things as well, but you get the idea.)

Angela with Grandma Lee – August 1996

So her doctor referred us to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. They sent us a schedule that had us in appointments from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. First on the list was aptitude testing, so they could get a baseline, as well as a variety of other tests throughout the day.

After being told Angela was 57% behind other kids her age, I was already feeling … lost. But, we had yet to see a doctor. So, the second appointment was with a geneticist. She walked into the room, introduced herself, and then asked us three questions. Just that. Three. Questions. She then left the room and came back less than 10 minutes later with a book. And a diagnosis.

It was that moment.

Because feeling something in your heart and being told something concrete, with proof, are two completely different things.

Now, I am not going to tell you that getting the diagnosis that your daughter has a permanent disability is the hardest news ever. Because it isn’t. After all, we could have been told so many other things. However, it was devastating and the loss of a dream.

By 3 p.m. that day, I had a raging headache and felt dazed. Too much information, too many tests, too much emotion. Honestly, it was just too much everything. And the emotional pain, I cannot describe the pain – or the guilt that seemed to come from it. Could I have done anything differently? Did I have caffeine, not get enough water, not eat enough? What did I do wrong? The moms out there know this guilt. It’s called Mom guilt, and I can tell you from years of experience, it’s a useless emotion that Satan uses to derail us.

Angela was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS for short). This can be genetic; however, after blood testing it was concluded that hers was a mutation that occurred at conception. There was quite literally nothing we could have done differently. At the time of her diagnosis, there were 2,500 cases known worldwide (there are now more than 2,500 people in my Facebook group alone), and they didn’t yet know which gene or chromosomes were involved. There is a lot of information about those afflicted with this syndrome at www.cdls-usa.org since I could fill pages and pages with just details about it. I will also be sharing more about exactly how the syndrome has affected our lives and her medical, physical, and intellectual challenges in my next blog post.

Angela in 2014 – taken by her teacher at school one day.

And, that was just the beginning. She had more tests added to the schedule that day and over the next few days. Then, her first surgery was just 16 days after that. We went from thinking we had two healthy kids, to one healthy son and a daughter with needs we were only beginning to understand (and still struggle with, if you want the truth).

In that moment (and many others) I related to Job when he said, “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look,” Job 30:20. I felt so alone in my grief, anger, and pain. But, just like Job, I wasn’t going through it alone. God was there the whole time. Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations 3:55-57, “But I called on your name, Lord from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried ‘Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!’ Yes, you came when I called; you told me, ‘Do not fear.’” Oh, thank YOU, Lord! You are there, even when we cannot feel You. You have not left us or forsaken us. There is a relief in that thought, isn’t there?

However, as you all know, prayer is hardest when your faith is weak. And, the devil strikes then! The deceiver wants us to feel alone in our pain. Have you ever felt that your prayer isn’t going past the ceiling? In a recent discussion about prayer, someone mentioned that David said in Psalm 23:4, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid; for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me” (emphasis mine). What a comforting thought!! “God is right there with us,” my friend said, “listening to every word we say.” We don’t have to worry about the prayers not going past the ceiling, He is sitting with us in that moment!

I won’t lie to you and say that feeling of being alone went away quickly. It didn’t. I won’t tell you I felt God’s arms around me in that moment. I didn’t. I will tell you I did slowly start to feel less alone and could eventually feel Jesus holding me as I cried, raged, and screamed out my pain. And, I did keep my faith, even if I was hanging on with torn fingernails.

And, He is right beside you in that moment, and the next, and the one after that. Let me say that again: JESUS IS SITTING WITH YOU RIGHT NOW! The pain and anger may keep you from feeling Him, but turn to Him anyway. Our Lord is waiting with open arms, a big lap, and strong shoulders to cry on. Let Him comfort and heal you. No, it’s not an easy process, but it is worth it.

An excerpt from Footprints in the Sand, author unknown

There is so much more to tell you (and look how long this one was!) that I have to make this a two- or three-part series. So, watch for my next blog to hear more about Angela, her diagnosis, learning to cope, and learning to trust God with all of it. For now, I leave you with this thought:

Lamentations 3:20-24 (NLT)

20 I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
21 Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![a]
His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

Lead Me Lord, Please!

Prayer: a starting and ending point for all we do as Christians. While this post talks more about where I feel God is leading for my 2018 posts, it really is about prayer, learning to trust the paths shown to us, and following where God leads. I hope you find this encouraging, if in no other way than to at least know what is coming later in the year.

Before I start writing a blog post (or anything really), I pray. A lot. I pray for guidance, for a subject, for the right words, and most importantly I pray for each of you and each word I type. While I don’t have the right words all the time or even the subject, God does. My trust is in Him; in where he wants a blog post, skit, play, sermon, blog post, Facebook comment or post, or anything I say to go — and who HE is trying to reach.

We come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures around the world. Some of us are married, some are not. Some of us are young, and some of us (cough, cough) are not. Some of us have littles, while some of us have only teens or adult kids. Some of us are new Christians, and some of us dedicated our lives years ago. We are moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, or brothers. All of us are just doing the best we can with what we have and what we know. All of us need Jesus in our lives to do it. So, while all our experiences are not the same, we do share some commonalities, and I keep feeling led to find ways to encourage you all as you journey down the various paths you take.

When LaDonna asked for volunteers to become blog writers, I jumped at the chance. I love to write (and talk – seriously just ask anyone). I love to share about how Jesus has worked in my life. LOVE IT! He has performed more miracles than I can share in one blog post (although I will be over the course of this year). And, I love homeschooling my kids. Right before she posted her request (and I mean minutes before), I had just finished asking God to expand my horizons and lead me to a path to share my story, or more appropriately, His story through my life, with others.

The Sabbath before she posted I had given a sermon at my church, which turned out to be more of a testimony than I expected to give (in case you want to see it https://youtu.be/JRf0cirwH8A). It was a very personal sermon. But, God is in control — where he leads I follow. Always. Even when it doesn’t feel like that is the right path. Even when the sacrifice seems bigger than I can bear. Even when it hurts. And honestly, it was one of the hardest things I have EVER done. The pain was worth the result, the people reached and impacted. The sacrifice seemed trivial in comparison to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And the path ALWAYS turns out to be the right one. ALWAYS! The sermon turned out to be the right choice. Or, more accurately, saying “Yes” to God was the right choice.

Where was I? Oh, blog writing. Asking God for a path and taking said path are two very different things. He didn’t just show me a path — he practically shoved it under my nose. And to be honest, I nearly turned tail and ran! I very quickly became overwhelmed with sharing those deepest parts of me with all of you. When I finally sat down to write that first blog post, I was nervous; ok, slight understatement there, I was terrified. So, like I did before and during the writing of that sermon, or any of the dramas or skits I write for church, I prayed. I prayed because, knowing what I know about myself, how was I going to get all these ideas about God, living, homeschooling, etc. onto paper (or laptop), without seeming preachy or condescending? I have not had an easy life (and I promise to share more about that as the year progresses). I wasn’t raised Adventist and I am far from the perfect Christian woman. I am not the best mother ever created. I have made and will continue to make more than my fair share of mistakes with my kids and in my marriage. Who am I to try and encourage each of you in your walks with Jesus and through homeschooling?

I put my heart and soul into my writing. It is a true expression of my innermost feelings. All my fears, regrets, pain, joy, love, and encouragement go into every word I write. Whether I am letting you know you are not alone in homeschooling, trying to get you off the worry path, or helping you find ways back into the Word, these are all things I have either experienced or am currently experiencing. Although, I did manage to not truly share myself in those posts.

I have been feeling convicted to go deeper. That what you really need and what I haven’t done yet, is share with you who I am and how God has worked in my life. I haven’t shared how or why we came to homeschool our boys. I have mentioned I have a child with a profound disability, but not how this has truly changed our lives. You don’t know I deal with chronic depression and PTSD from childhood abuse and how I cope with that. I haven’t explained how I survived, faith intact. How Jesus and getting into His Word literally saved my life. And more importantly, how I regained my trust in God afterwards. You don’t know how often I retreat into books rather than dealing with frustrations, anger, or worries. You don’t know that I struggle with parenting, marriage, homeschooling, my faith, or physical and emotional pain. You don’t know that I am or have been where many of you are now. Yet.

While telling all of you these things won’t be the easiest path I have ever taken, I do know that God is not only with me on this path, he guided me to it and is carrying me down it. While I don’t know or understand His reasons for me sharing these pieces of myself over the coming months, He does. I know that His ways are good and true and that He has not only my best interest in mind, but yours as well.

Credit: https://i2.wp.com/www.jeremybrummel.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/study-862994_1280.jpg?resize=350%2C200&ssl=1

So, whoever you are — the one(s) God is trying to reach — I pray for you as I write these words down. I will continue to pray for each of you as I share the good, bad, and ugly of my journey to this point. There will be tears and pain, but there will also be release, joy, and love. At church, we have a saying about our big productions. “If only one person’s life is changed by what we have put together, then all the time, effort, skill, and work that has gone into it was absolutely worth every drop of sweat and tear shed. We are merely the vessel for God’s word to touch those around us.” I am the vessel of God, so I will share these things with you and pray.

Ultimately, my prayer is that you are blessed and enriched by my words and thoughts. That Jesus should lead and guide each letter I type. That He will protect my heart and mind as I share and my story will somehow bless you in your journey. I ask that you join me in prayer, and that our faith and trust in God will grow through this shared experience.

Forgive and Forget

In the late fall of​ 2014, our family was ousted from our home in the most undignified manner.

We’d been living there for a little over a year, renting from a couple my family had known since I was a half-pint. It had seemed like a dream come true when we’d been approached about renting from them; they wanted someone they knew who would care for their home, and so the rent we paid was not what one would expect from that large of a home that backed to open space and a reservoir to boot! Paradise!

When we’d first moved in, I’d asked how long they were thinking to rent to us. The answer was five or six years or until they retired and moved back to Colorado. And so, we settled blissfully into our new home for an extended stay.

Until October 6 when I received an email. They were selling the house.

Initially he indicated that he wanted us to put a sign in the front yard to sell it himself. I vetoed that, indicating that there was no way we were going to allow people off the street to come in and see the house without an insured and bonded real estate agent. He relented.

Fast forward not quite two months (I’m leaving out 75% of the sordid details) and we were fleeing the house from the imminent sale that had initially seemed like an answer to prayer: a single man was buying and willing to continue to rent it to us. That man became erratic and threatening, and after a particularly bad encounter we’d found another house and signed a lease within 48 hours.

There are so many other things that happened. I could outline them all, but let me just summarize by saying that the friendship that had lasted almost four decades between our families is in rubbles. I was saddened by their decision to sell, but understood and wasn’t angry. But, over the course of that month, things came to light that cut me to my core. When I addressed them in an email, there was only justification and obfuscation.

Whatever.

Here’s what I’m grappling with right now, and that’s forgiveness.

In the early 1990s I grappled with this very same thing and thought that I’d really become quite accomplished at the whole maneuver!

I was dating a guy and his mother had pulled a really dastardly deed that had hurt my feelings beyond belief. I relished telling the story of what she’d done. Everyone I told empathized and agreed that I’d been done wrong. Every time I told the story, I’d feel that familiar rush of righteous anger, the unjustness of it all.

Of course, I would finish the story with, “…and of course I forgive her! I really do!”

Forgive and forget, right?

Until one day I was gob smacked (or perhaps God-smacked) by the thought that while I might not ever forget it, there was no way I could claim to forgive until I stopped telling the story. Reliving the details of the wrong and the dredging up the emotions of the hurt. Claiming to forgive, but airing her wrongs to a new audience time and again.

That day I had the heretofore unthought thought that forgiveness wasn’t just saying the words, it was no longer telling the story.

It revolutionized my life in the area of forgiveness! I got quite good at it! I just stopped myself from reliving, retelling wrongs!

Except my husband. That was a different blog post. {grins}

And now today. Three years after we were chased from our home. One Sabbath not so long ago I was standing in the children’s welcome area with a friend who I had just grabbed in a hug…

…and into my line of sight walked the wife of the couple who’d sold the house out from under us.

Sigh.

Forgiveness.

The last three years, we’d lived in a home that we ended up loving! If not the house itself, then definitely the neighborhood and neighbors made up for it in spades! We made friends, I got involved with a non-profit (running the finances) that gives us free eggs and access to riding horses whenever I want!

I told myself that I forgave this couple! I told family that I forgave them!

And then they showed up at church. They live almost 13 hours away from Colorado. There are only about a dozen churches in the Denver area to attend.

No, I had to come face to face with the fact that I hadn’t forgiven. I still have raw emotion about the whole thing.

I’ve stopped telling the story, by and large. Writing it out above was the first time I’ve thought of it in quite a while. I thought I’d forgiven.

I don’t know how long it will be before they visit again. I wonder to myself if they’re thinking about it. About us. About me. I wonder if they’re talking about it. I wonder if he’s composing an email to send. I wish he would. Forgiveness is so much easier if the other party, the wounding party, asks forgiveness. Acknowledges the wrong and opens that door. But that’s not likely.

And so here I sit. Mulling. Stewing. Wishing it were different. Not yet ready to do anything myself. Seems there’s much more for me to learn.

Mundane Days of Faithfulness

The winter months — with recovery from the holidays, colder temperatures, and the end of the school year seeming so far off — are often when students appear to struggle. For parents the colder, shorter days can be seen as days to get through in order to get to the days which are warmer and longer. In the winter months in the midwest, it’s a time of rest for the land and the plants; even cows and chickens take a break from producing milk and eggs. The winter is a sustained period of time where not much appears to be happening, but it’s a crucial time in the farming process. Just as the farmer has a time without the appearance of success, so too, families can have a season where not much appears to be happening. There are ways, though, to make the mundane days, meaningful.

During this time focus could be changed to demonstrating how to work at something for a little bit, and be satisfied with incompletion. The process is the important part.

When I think of an example of appreciating repetitive and mundane experience, and focusing on the process vs. the outcome, each time I come back to chores. When I look at chores in a way that I will only be satisfied when every dish is clean and put away, all the clothes laundered and put away, and the house straightened and looking company ready, then I am setting myself up for frustration and an irritable mood. I am also modeling the idea that satisfactory work only occurs when the desired outcome is met.

I’ve worked, prayed, and continue to practice accepting time spent on a project as good enough. Beyond accepting “good enough,” the repetitive nature of most tasks lends itself well to engaging in mindfulness activities which soothe the mind, body, and spirit.

The easy task of matching socks and prayer go well together. Singing and worship in the middle of dishes increases energy, both physical and spiritual. Vacuuming and mopping the floor works well with taking deep breaths and adding a blessing or a mantra to focus the mind. My favorite deep breathing activity is also a prayer. When I breathe in, I pray, “Whatever You give me, I accept.” When I breathe out, I pray, “Whatever You take from me, I let go.” I have found increased connection with God, and flexibility in following God’s plan for me by incorporating this deep breathing prayer with my chores.

In Deuteronomy 11:19 we are to “Teach them (the Word of God) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” While it may feel awkward at first, modeling and demonstrating mindful connection to God throughout the day are powerful tools of faith to impart to your children. You may wonder, then, how does this apply to school work?

My husband, a concert level musician, taught me that in order to learn how to do a skill quickly and accurately, I first needed to learn to do the task slowly and methodically. Whether taking my licensing exam or folding laundry, in order to improve my skill, I need to take action slowly; and, once learned and done accurately, I can increase the speed of completion. School work is about acquiring new skills, in-depth study, and communicating the knowledge acquired. The process is similar to what I described with chores. Frequently, there isn’t a satisfactory end. Reading, writing, and math all require practice, a lot of practice, with frequent mistakes and trying again. If the focus of learning is on a satisfactory outcome, we can set up our relationship with our children to be one of frustration and irritability. I present for your consideration: What if the process of learning chores and prayerful mindfulness will ease any learning frustrations, because knowledge of the process of learning will already have been experienced by your child(ren) through learning the process of chores?

These shorter, colder, perhaps even mundane days allow activity in a household to slow down; the focus of learning can be on the basics. Through repetition and mindfulness, a child can grow physically, developmentally, and spiritually during a time when you are unlikely to see any “academic fruit.” These days are important, if we can model the skills we want our children to integrate, and allow children freedom from constantly striving for the moment of success.

“What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?” ~Martin Luther